It Takes a Village to Raise a Start-Up
By Nasir Qadree, Associate Director of Social Investments, AT&T
AT&T is working to empower the next generation of change agents. We believe that our country’s startup ecosystem can have a direct impact on creating alternative and new solutions to revitalize America’s most challenged communities. That’s why we support start-ups that are using technology to solve challenges in education.
The reality is, so much of the innovation that drives productivity, economic and job growth, is coming from small businesses. These businesses aren’t just in traditional centers of innovation like Silicon Valley and aren’t run by the same faces that drove the education revolution of the past. Yet so much of the funding is based on outdated notions. For example:
- 73% of US investments in the first half of 2017 were made in 3 states - California, New York, and Massachusetts. The remaining 47 states are competing for 27% of investment capital.
- 10% of venture dollars globally between 2010 and 2015 went to startups with at least one female founder.
- African American-owned companies make up only 1% of firms that received VC funding.
Innovation doesn’t come from one geography or from one group of people. To develop viable solutions to our nation’s biggest challenges, we need to diversify the investment dollars that are the lifeblood of small businesses and the communities they will benefit.
At AT&T we are supporting entrepreneurs from every corner of our country. In the AT&T Aspire Accelerator, education-focused small businesses are often driven to find unique solutions after experiencing the problem they are solving personally, or thorough R&D in impacted communities.
Taking Solutions to Scale
I’m convinced that most problems have solutions; however, we fail to connect the solution to the problem in a way that is scalable. Put another way, how do we take organizations with smart, innovative solutions from the local level to a national or even global scale? I believe it takes “Islands of Excellence” - entrepreneurial support organizations, private foundations, investment firms, and corporations that together push the notion that investable and impactful ideas exist everywhere.
We can all agree that for start-ups to become successful companies, it takes more than capital. They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same might be said for a start-up. It’s not enough to have a great idea, or the dollars to fund it. You need smart leadership, but you also need a support system to turn these dreams into reality. My team at AT&T at its core believes in empowering these businesses so they can thrive. When they do, the communities that we all live in and work in thrive too.
I have a great deal of empathy for entrepreneurs – it is incredibly hard work. You are bootstrapping, investing your savings, working nights plus weekends and finding hours in the day that few of us knew existed. I feel incredibly honored to support them and work at a company that understands the need for collaboration and innovation to find the best solutions to our country’s greatest challenges.